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Sanatana Dharma - Aka Hinduism (1st Bin)
Per consensus discussions will be split in three bins. In the first bin on Practice (Philosophical, Spiritual, Cultural), the second bin on Experience (Cultural/Social), the third on Community (Social/Political).

Each bin thus captures and represents one of the main ways that dharma is expressed which makes an impact on all hindus and others, living in the eco-system.

<b>The first bin</b> is for how religious practices can exert a powerful hold on people, and become focal points of their lives as they facilitate experiences of divine or ultimate reality [Whatever it is called in their own minds]. In other words, religious practices are powerful because they are vehicles for religious experience, let’s just look at it for what it is - {Let us avoid hair splitting here - orthodos or heterodox schools etc etc - we have philosophy thread just for that}

The second bin for discussing/analyzing different forms of religious experiences that shows how they not only involve people in relationships with divine or ultimate reality but its impact on immediate surroundings. Technically such experiences generate loyalty to religious communities and guide people in managing their immediate social world and concern for society (or lack there of) – discussion mainly on the latter part {We really cannot discuss personal experiences nor do we want to discuss opinions - Just the "local(micro)" impact}

The third bin for exploring the impact of such religious communities on society on a much broader scale – India/World - in light of increasing assault on Hinduism by the usual suspects, complicated by our own misunderstanding and laziness to put an effort into busting myths propagated by vested interests. For lack of better word, let’s call this “Theorizing Bin - Past, Present and Future” The past-present-future angle sets the context behind each argument, otherwise it is futile, in so far as developing a theory. If anything constructive comes out of this bin, then discussions to be based on accomplishing it at both micro and macro levels.
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<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Science behind Lord Krishna's Aarti
The ritual of lighting a lamp

    Ideally, ritualistic worship should be done with
the flame in the soul. However, since most of us do
not even experience this inner light, let alone
perform worship with it, the ritual of waving lit
lamps is performed with a physical lamp. One should
light a lamp using ghee (clarified butter) because
when burned, frequencies emanating from it are more
subtle than those emitted by burning oil or wax. Ghee
can attract sattvik (pure) frequencies from as far as
heaven while oil can attract frequencies from a
distance of only one-meter.

    Today in this scientific age one might ridicule
lighting of lamps as one can have wonderful
electrification. We must remember that our ancestors
have attributed great importance to this after
in-depth study. They also did it with the spiritual
emotion of gratitude. Let us now compare electrical
and ghee lamps.

  Electric lamp  Ghee lamp 
1. Kind of light emitted  Blinding Mild, it reminds
one of the flame of the soud. 
2. Effects on man  Makes man extroverted and the
atmosphere chaotic.  Makes man introverted. 
3. Ability to light another lamp.  Absent It can light
a thousand more lamps. 

    The ghee lamp symbolizes the spiritual emotion, ‘I
will be (spiritually) enlightened and (spiritually)
enlighten others as well’. The ghee lamp burns to
spread light. One can pray for kindling the light
(spiritual yearning) within us and for the ability to
spread the light (Spirituality) to others.

The spiritual meaning of things used in aarti for God,
and the method and science of waving around the aarti

A small plate (Tabak):

It represents the five-vital airs (panchpran) of our
body. One should have such spiritual emotion when
performing aarti that ‘I am waving around aarti for
God with my five vital airs.’

A metal lamp-dish (Niranjan):

The flame of ghee’s niranjan represents our ‘Atmajyot’
(internal light). The spiritual emotion one should
have is ‘with my five vital airs this atmajyot is
alive, and with such flame I am waving around God.’
The five niches (mouths) in a niranjan indicate the
relationship between five vital airs and atmajyot.
Panchaarti is the one done with five vital airs.

Cotton wicks (Vaat/baati):

Cotton represents detachment. Such a wick is to
connect the five vital airs (pranvayu) with the inner
light (atmajyot).

     The image above is a depiction of the science
behind this ritual performed with five lamps (five
wicks in niranjan). When the ‘tabak’ is waved around
in a circular motion, the pure (sattvik) frequencies
emitted from the flame of niranjan spread out in a
circular fashion. Hence, these sattvik frequencies
gradually convert to raja frequencies. These
frequencies are like a ripple effect in water. A
subtle armor is created, which is known as ‘ripple
armor’, around the one who sings the aarti. The
duration of this ripple armor is proportionate to the
spiritual emotion one has while singing the aarti (the
more is one’s spiritual emotion, the longer it stays).
Hence, due to increase in inner purity, one can absorb
more divine frequencies in the Universe. As one’s
spiritual emotion increases, one will begin to see the
reflection of the center point (atmabindu) and will
feel that the raja frequencies actually originate from
this center point.
- The Guru Principle, through Mrs. Anjali Gadgil.
Why is aarti done in a clockwise motion - how many
times and what significance does it have?

    Aarti is done clockwise in a circular movement
from our left side. That simulates our Chandra (Ida)
nadi. It is a soothing effect. Usually five circles
are made during aarti, which represents the five
pranas, or vital airs.

What is the significance of offering lotus flowers,
tulsi leaves, and sheera or kheer as prasad (holy

    Flowers have different colors. Those colors are
able to attract Pavitrakas (subtle particles) of
different deities. In this case, Lord Krishna being an
incarnation of Lord Vishnu is attracted most by white
lotuses and Tulsi (holy basil, occimum sanctum)

    Prasad (holy sacrament) contains the pure
particles (pavitrakas) of a particular deity. In the
case of Lord Krishna, Kheer (a sweet dish made from
milk, sugar and rice/vermicelli) or sheera (a sweet
dish made from semolina, ghee and sugar) are offered.

<!--emo&:lol:--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/laugh.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='laugh.gif' /><!--endemo-->

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The Rahukala is considered an inauspicious time (1 ½
hours) that occurs daily. It is a period that is
usually avoided – especially when performing an
important task, undertaking a journey and so on.

It is important to ensure that you don’t start any
important work/sign important documents etc. during
the duration of the Rahukala. If you happen to have an
important appointment for example, and it happens to
fall during the rahukala, don’t worry. Just leave for
the appointment before the time, with a small prayer
for help and be sure that you will be ok. You may
start any work either before or after the rahukala but
preferably not during it. The same applies for doing
pujas etc.

As the timings vary daily, a line that is often used
to help us remember the timings is: 

“Mother Saw Father Wearing THe Turban on a Sunday.”

The rahukala starts with 7.30 a.m. on Monday morning
and lasts each day for one and a half hours. The
sequence is for one and a half hours daily, as
suggested by the above line. Thus:

Monday -        7.30 - 9.00 a.m.

Saturday  -       9.00 - 10.30 a.m.

Friday -            10.30 a.m - 12 noon

Wednesday - 12 noon - 1.30 p.m.

Thursday -       1.30 p.m - 3.00 p.m.

Tuesday -         3. 00 p.m. - 4.30 p.m.

Sunday -          4.30 p.m - 6.00 p.m.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>SYMBOLISM OF SCRIPTURES</b>


The Dawn is the head of the horse of wisdom in one way? says, Bruhadharanyaka Upanishads. This passage of the Upanishad describes the whole space of zodiac as the body of a big horse. This is the life principle. It is eternally sacrificed into the creation. 

The symbolism of horse is prominent in Vedas among various sacrificial symbols. This has the great significance in astrological signs. All regions and mythologies included horse as a major symbol. In every scripture it is understood as a symbol of power and swiftness. In Vedic literature horse is represented by vital force that is being produced by suns rays. These rays galvanize the chemistry of the living bodies into an organic state of metabolism.

The solar year is divided into 27 equal parts from the vernal equinox. It is one of the Nakshatra divisions. The head of the horse is located in the beginning of the year. This is because the mystic force and swiftness of the vital principle is flooded just after the time of the vernal equinox. The first divisions of the nakshatras indicate the head of the horse and the tail is located at the 20th division of the zodiac. The first division is called Aswins, and the 20th division is called Poorvashada. For a student of Vedic astrology, when the head and tail of horse combined in meditation, gives many clues to the history of heavens.

Bruhadaranyaka Upanishad describe the time of the duration of the whole day as a horse. In the Aswamedha sacrifice, space and time is the main import of horsiness. The brighter half of the day is solar and the darker is lunar. In the ritual, the brighter horse is represented by a 

Golden calf and the darker is silver. They denote the position of the sky, above and below the horizons relative to the observer, Pasyaka. That which is seen by the observer is called ?the reverse of pasyaka, which is kasyapa?. The Kasyapa is the husband of Adhiti and Dithi, the brighter and darker halves. In puranic literature they are called Vinatha and Kadruva. 

Among the fixed stars in the heaven, there is one star which is called horse head, it is in the constellation called Aswin. The Upanishads speak of this astronomical phenomenon which binds the horse life force in the heavens to prepare Anna, metabolic activity for the whole year. 

The horse sacrifice is one of the main rituals in the Vedic path. It is not the physical horse that has been sacrificed. It is more speculative than operative. In the ritual, the Agni and Soma are invoked. The symbolisms of horse is grand and very poetic literature in Vedas which extends to Puranas. It is supposed to be performed by Kings who wanted to extend their domain. In fact, any man can perform this sacrifice in speculative path and become King of his own sphere. In the ritual a horse is brought purified, decorated and consecrated to Gods. It is then left to wander for a particular time. When it is wandering a group of ritualists follow the horse and it is brought back again and sacrificed at the Altar. Then 13 persons bring and tie it. It is all symbolic.

To perform the act of ritual, the sacrifices brings the horse tied with the rope, in fact, they are lines of force in him made up of freedom. The horse is allowed to wander for 12 months which is 12 measures that create the zodiac. Hence the rope also must be of 12 measures. But 13 people tie it, and it must contain 13 measures. Every three years of the lunar computation there will be 13th month required to make an adjustment with the solar year, which is called Adhikamasa.

12 of them represent 12 lunar months of the year and 13th is called the guest. This guest is nothing but the Adhikamasa which comes once in three years. This is a counter part in the consciousness of the ritualist. This counter part brings the prana into the conscious levels of man.

Prajapathi, meaning, the cycle of time has created the horse sacrifice, says Vedas. The Upanishad says, the horse was created from Prajapathi through the higher limbs, the Prajapathi entered into all directions. The devas wanted to send it down and linked it with a sacrifice to fulfill their desires. The higher force which is five fold has entered into the year and descend down as five creative aspects and the body of the sacrifice is made up of five elements of the nature. The Horse sacrifice brings the higher five into lower five and connects them with a vital force. The higher force can be unfolded to the meditator if he meditates the whole year as five divisions starting with the month of Sagittarius.

When a ritualist meditates on the days that the sun is passing through Aswini, he gets the revelations of the astronomical wisdom. In the Puranic speculative symbolism, the horse headed form of the absolute deity presides over the branches of the wisdom of life, is called Hayagreeva.

A meditator on Hayagreeva will see the various divisions into which the horse of the heaven descends to the earth or the matter. The year, the month and the days are divided into many types of divisions which are not known to the modern astrologer or astronomer. Each division has a purpose. Their effects are indicated by the celestial phenomena on the physical, mental, spiritual, sexual and emotional levels of the biological phenomena.

?The symbol of the inverted tree in the Vedas, Upanishads and the fifteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita has another outstanding secret. The tree is called Aswaddha (Ficus religiosa). With the aid of this tree, the yogi of the ritualistic path who is born in this sign causes a transmutation of the man on the horse through reversing the wheel. Then the symbol of the sign is changed into the man with the head of a horse. This is called Lord Hayagreeva (the horse-headed deity). In the words of a book on the Tantric Rituals it is said ? ?sit under the tree Ficus religiosa. Eat the leaves of the tree. Meditate upon Lord Hayagreeva through his Mantra. Drink milk. You will be lord of all the keys between sound and the mind. You will be the master of all the sciences and arts of creation. You will be the master of all languages (human, animal, plant and mineral). You can cut off the branches (effects) and the roots (causes) of Karma with the axe of non-attachment?. ?Rearrange the Mantra of the great swan. You get the mantra of Hayagreeva.? The Mantra of swan is ?Ham?So?. Bring together ?H? and ?So? and you get ?HSOUM?. This is the mantra of Lord Hayagreeva who should be meditated in milk-white colour. 

The name of the tree ?Aswatdha? means the seat of the horse. All through the Vedic symbolism, the horse is the symbol of fire. Red horse is the symbol of solar fire and white horse is the symbol of spiritual fire in man. The horse-sacrifice (Aswamedha) is the greatest of all the rituals that are consecrated to the year-god to enhance the splendour of one?s kingship. The Aswatdha tree of Lord Krishna is the Bodhi tree of Lord Buddha. Buddha has his final realization when he took shelter under this tree.

In Puranas, the Solar Logos followed his wife, Sougya (symbol) down the earth. She came down to earth as mare Sun god followed the horse. It means, the spiritual sun makes himself visible through his solar symbol and earth receives it as the fire of life. The spiritual sun descends into whatever form it is provided by the brilliance. He impregnates it with a spiritual path that serves as the highest principle above the soul in the living beings. The whole spiritual path of a man is to realise this divine spark. The horse of rituals is the omni potent generator of the spiritual sparks that are called by the souls of the various beings on this earth. This horse goes round and round the Solar Logos.

The Horse is a form of Agni, the cosmic fire. The creation dawns from the subjective to the objective to the power of horse. The horse is the fire that exists beyond mental, physical, planetary and solar levels. The modern man can understand this horse when he can understand the fire in his highest aspect not confusing himself with flame and fire. Flame is the physical body of the fire, the fire lives in 49 levels.

As we see the above symbols of the ancients, we begin to extract the significance and put it in application, we find many new horizons appear before our mind. The formula and symbols as well as the deductions of the ancients are empirical or hypothetical in nature. They are the expressions of the seer?s mind who are inspired by the self consciousness, mysteries of nature and their splendours. Horse is one such symbolism.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Vedanta Sutra, Bhashyas, Puranas, Itihasas and Kavyas

Vyasadeva is an incarnation of Krishna. He compiled Vedanta-sutra to enable one to understand the Absolute Truth through infallible logic and argument.
Veda means knowledge, and anta means the end. In other words, proper understanding of the ultimate purpose of the Vedas is called Vedanta knowledge.

A sutra is a code that expresses the essence of all knowledge in a minimum of words. It must be universally applicable and faultless in its linguistic presentation; this is the definition of sutra according to Vayu and Skanda Puranas.

Knowledge which is given in the Vedanta-sutra is supported by the Upanisads. Vedanta-sutras are known as nyaya-prasthana, legitimate logic and argument concerning cause and effect giving the conclusive understanding of the sruti-prasthana, the Upanishads .

Vedanta-sutra, which consists of codes revealing the method of understanding Vedic knowledge, is the concise form of all Vedic knowledge. It begins with the words athato brahma-jijnasa: "Now is the time to inquire about the Absolute Truth". The human form of life is especially meant for this purpose, and therefore the Vedanta-sutra very concisely explains the human mission. According to the great dictionary compiler (Kosakara), Hemacandra, Vedanta refers to the purport of the Upanishads and the Brahmana portion of the Vedas.

The Vedanta-sutras are also known by the following different names: 

              (1) Brahma-sutra
              (2) Saririka-sutra
              (3) Vyasa-sutra
              (4) Badarayana-sutra
              (5) Uttara-mimamsa
              (6) Vedanta-darsana

The Vedanta-sutra consists of four chapters. The first two chapters discuss the relationship of the living entity with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is known as sambandha-jnana, or the knowledge of relationship.

The third chapter describes how one can act in his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is called abhideya-jnana.

The fourth chapter describes the result of such action. This is known as prayojana-jnana.

Because the Vedanta-sutra is in codes which contain a lot of knowledge, it required commentaries (bhashyas).

Sripada Sankaracharya wrote his commentary on Vedanta-sutra based on monism (advaita - not two). He established that God and the living entity are one. Not accepting the transformation of the energy of Absolute Truth, which is the actual explanation of th e Vedanta-sutra, he introduced the theory of illusion. He claimed that everything is one with Supreme.

There are other (theistic) commentaries by vaishnava acharyas:

              Nimbarka - dvaitadvaita (oneness and dualism)
              Vishnuswami - suddhadvaita (purified oneness)
              Ramanujacharya - visistadvaita (specific oneness)
              Madhvacharya - dvaita (dualism)
              Baladeva Vidyabhusana - acintya bhedabheda (inconceivable
              oneness and difference)

In each of these commentaries, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is established as the cause of all causes, the cosmic manifestation is established as transformation of His inconceivable energies, and devotional service is described very explicitly.

Puranas, Itihasas and Kavyas

Puranas are compiled from related historical facts which explain the teachings of the four Vedas. In the Chandogya Upanishad, the Puranas and the Mahabharata, generally known as histories, are mentioned as the fifth Veda.

Srila Vyasadeva, due to his kindness and sympathy toward the fallen souls, supplemented the Vedas with Puranas which easily explain the Vedic truths, intended for different types of men.

All men are not equal. There are men who are conducted by the mode of goodness, others who are under the mode of passion and others who are under the mode of ignorance. The Puranas are so divided that any class of men can take advantage of them and gradu ally regain their original position and get out of the hard struggle for existence.

All the stories mentioned in the Puranas are actual histories, not only of this planet but also on millions of other planets within the universe.

In the Puranas, (which are classified under the three modes) as a matter of course, Srila Vyasadeva has certainly given descriptions of the glories of Krishna, but not as many as given to religiosity economic development, sense gratification and salvation . These four items are by far very inferior to engagement in the devotional service of the Lord.

Therefore, in the pure-goodness Purana, viz., Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Vyasadeva proclaims that the prime necessity of human life is to realize one's eternal relationship with the Lord and thus surrender unto Him without delay.

Itihasas are literatures describing historical events pertaining to either a single hero or a few heroic personalities in a lineage: for example, Ramayana describing the pastimes of Sri Ramachandra and Mahabharata describing the pastimes of the Pandavas in the lineage of the Kurus. In these books there are topics on transcendental subjects along with material topics. The Bhagavad-gita is a part of Mahabharata. The whole idea of the Mahabharata culminates in the ultimate instructions of the Bhagavad-gita that one should give up all other engagements and should engage oneself solely and fully in surrendering unto the lotus feet of Krishna. The conclusive teaching of the Ramayana also is to fully surrender and take shelter of Lord Sri Ramachandra.

Kavyas are dramatic poetical presentations of selected histories from the Itihasas and/or Puranas, some examples are Raghuvamsa, Meghaduta, Sakuntala.

All the vedic literatures, are put into systematic order for the benefit of the fallen souls who are detached from the transcendental loving service of the Lord, It is the duty of the fallen souls to take advantage of such literatures and become freed from the bondage of material existence.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Once in a life time event for the entire family

Maha Gayatri Saraswati Maha yagna

August 19-21

Saraswati Mandiram, Epping, New Hampshire

The Yajna has a very positive influence on the body and mind. It sets positive vibrations for the benefit of humanity, for peace and harmony. The land where Yajna is performed receives divine and pious impressions and subtle vibrations. These impressions are long lasting.

Yajna has its material advantages too, which can be easily verified by scientific experiments. The various material used in the oblations and offerings in the Yagna have medicinal attributes. These oblations coupled with the chanting of the Vedic mantras purify the environment.

Maha Gayatri Saraswati Maha Yagna is the most powerful Yagna of all. The event is FREE for all.

Special Features:

108 Yajna Kundas and 108 Yajmaans.

The Yagna place is designed in an authentic way to reflect the Gayatri Yantra!


Special Pooja for :

Guru, Pita (father), Matri (Mother), Kanya (young girl), Gaja (Elephant), Go (Cow), Ashwa (Horse), Byaghra (Tiger), Simha (Lion) and more….

Don’t miss this Grand spiritual and cultural festival & fair for peace, harmony and prosperity for all by the blessings of the Divine Mother.

For information and direction please visit: www.saraswatimandiram.org       or call: 603-679-1126<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Greetings. Good to be back. Two comments:

1) Thanks for posting this tidbit:
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Not accepting the transformation of the energy of Absolute Truth, which is the actual explanation of the Vedanta-sutra</b>, he [Acharya Shankara] <b>introduced</b> the theory of illusion. He claimed that everything is one with Supreme. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd--> Far too many people are unaware of the drastic re-definition of terms and rejection of many Vedic concepts that is the signature of the Monist school. "kevala-Advaita" and "Vedanta" are NOT synonymous!

2) Can we make a distinction between the esoteric Absolute Dharma (sanatana dharma), and all relative exoteric dharmas (socio-cultural, etc.)? Clearly, 'dharma' is an overloaded term. There are several relative dharmas, grihastha dharma, kshatriya dharma, etc. These are based on varna and ashrama. Even these dharmas differ from society to society.

So none of these is an Absolute Dharma (sanatana dharma), which is not changeable. Sanatana dharma is self-realization. All other dharmas that are supposed to aid in this goal are relative dharmas. So 'Hinduism', which is an exoteric cultural label, cannot be equated with 'sanatana dharma'. Sanatana dharma is an intrinsic property of all humans.

That is not excatly right. Whatever 'monism' or advaita says is justifiable based on vedanta (upanishads). Brahman has often been called undivided, one, unchanging etc in the upanishads. Try imposing a real pariNAma (or even kArya-kAraNavAda) type of 'transformation' on that. It is not possible.

Simultaneously there are instances where brahman is supposed to have created the universe as at least temporarily separate from itself (yathorNa-NAbhiH sR^ijjate...) etc.

So none of the vedanta based 'philosophies' can claim exclusive rights to vedAnta.

The fact is vedAnta (upaniShads) is a collection of experiences of many sages. The sages were self-realized, but were not necessarily into 'philosophy'.

A philosophical system based on vedAnta needs a 'logical' organization of the materials present in the upanishads.

So far, I haven't seen ANY system of vedAnta philosphy that does a better job on purely philosophical grounds, than Shri Shankara's advaita.

And I am not closed minded on this. I am open to be educated into a better philosophical system if it exists.

But a purely 'philosophical' discussion is not feasible if it keeps on getting mixed with 'rhetoric'.
Hi Ashok.
I addressed some of these points earlier, and you have yet to post your full reply. Let me re-state some simple points briefly.

The theory I speak for is "achintya bheda-abheda tattva", or Inconceivable Difference within Oneness.

1) <b>The sense of "difference" is no more an external "attribute" to Brahman than is "oneness".</b> Rather, "difference" inheres in Brahman.

2) To speak of "one" in a <i>numerical</i> sense is ridiculous, i.e., it is as ridiculous as speaking of 2 or 3 Brahmans. Brahman is beyond space, time, and number. <b>Therefore, it is a <i>qualitative</i> oneness, not a <i>numerical</i> sense of being "alone".</b>

3) Since <b>Brahman is the "sum of all possibilities"</b>, therefore the imposition of such strictures as numerical singularity, impersonalism, or lack of variagatedness in any sense are all glaring contradictions.

4) "Advaita" in the Sanskrit means "unique", or "peerless". "Ekatvam" means "one-ness". There is a difference of meaning here. Uniqueness implies variagatedness, it implies difference. Therefore, again we have the inconceivable Uniqueness within Oneness. But the kevala-advaita commentary fudges this nuance of meaning and makes "advaita" synonymous with "ekatvam".

5) The simultaneous inherence of difference within oneness is 'inconceivable' in the sense that it <b>cannot be visualized</b> in our imagination. This is certainly understandable, given that Brahman is beyong mind. But it may be formulated philosophically, and it must <i>necessarily</i> be a paradox (with no further contradictions). It is beyond the empirical. OTOH, mayavadi commentaries have a rather simplistic, cut-n-dried set of axioms, but then they come up with a bunch of other "vadas" to try to tackle the multiplicity of contradictions, or they throw up their hands saying "it is inconceivable". Inconceivability refers to the ability to visualize, not to formulate it philosophically.

6) The variagatedness inherent in Brahman is not like the differentiated material variagatedness. Rather, material variagatedness, like illusory consciousness, is a perversion and dislocation of the original. The Source cannot be less than the Creation. Variegatedness exists, but in a non-thinkable form, beyond the physical, astral and causal planes of existence. <b>The higher dimensions transcend <i>and include</i> the lower dimensions.</b> A two dimensional object includes one-dimensionality. 3-D includes the first and second dimensions, and transcends both. Therefore Brahman, being the totality and balance of all, must necessarily include all that is in pratyaksha, anumana, etc....and more. All the attributes of the saguna realms are inherent in Brahman, albeit in a different, "unmanifest" form.

7) Because Brahman "is possessed of" pure consciousness, therefore is is necessarily <b>personal</b>. Impersonalism is non-sense.
A crude attempt at laying the framework, so we can proceed with discussions in appropriate bins <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo-->.

<i>Esho Asvattah Sanatanah - KU</i>

Hinduism, as we all know it, is based on principles (Tattvas) and not on persons (purushas). The spiritual scientists (Rishis) are seers, saints sages who embodied the tattvas, and they are just that. Thus hinduism is a-paureshaya. The eternal verities (Sanatana tattvas) are the paths to reach the eternal truth (satya), . Unlike other fixed religions, it is not a faith (mata) but it is tattva and satya (investigated realizable ultimate truth) and its practical application in life (As you said it carl - Dharma-grihastha dharma, kshatriya dharma, etc. and differ from society to society and much more). Yes, if you include just "ethics and duties" of Manava dharma alone devoid of satya and tattvas, then Sanatana Dharma can include anyone and everyone (including some hindus).

It is under this Sanatana Tattvas, we can see vaishanava, shaiva, shakta etc philosphies but all under one umbrella.

Whoever claims to have "faith" in fixed religion (Creator in Heaven, etc) and practises it, cannot be called a sanatani, although sanatana dharma does not exclude them in principle, it is time for people who have been living and practising (knowingly or unknowingly.. hence the bins) it - giving life to those very principles - to raise their awareness(es). So, historically that has been only Hindus and not others (who have left it either by choice or forced or other varieties).

<b>So, Sanatanis are Hindus and Hindus are Sanatanis. </b>

If this bin is used for Tattva discussions as well, then we can merge the older philosophy thread with this as well or continue in the relevant thread - Your call (actually let other mods weigh in on this <!--emo&Tongue--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/tongue.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='tongue.gif' /><!--endemo-->).

That said, let's just keep it simple, so everyone knows what the heck we are talking about here <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo-->


The word Puja came from the Dhathu "Puj", which means to worship, to honor, to welcome. The root of the word Puja is "Yaja" Deva Poojaayaam" means the service or activities that one cannot avoid from doing to propitiate or please God.

Every country, state, religion, caste, family and even individual has its/their/his/her own belief and ways of performing Puja. Whatever may be the method or system or practice that one adopts or follows, there are, as per Hindu scriptures 4, 5 (Panchopachar), 8, 10 (Dasopachar), 13, 16 (Shodashopachar), 24, 32, 64 or 108 types of Upacharas or activities or services to propitiate God.

The daily worship generally consists of sixteen phases or items according to a conventional practice usually referred to as Shodasopachara Puja. These sixteen items are not always necessarily the same throughout. They differ from occasion to occasion and may be from place to place or person to person. But a common sequence popularly followed by majority of the devotees is as follows:

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->1. Avahanam - Invocation
2. Asanam- Offering a seat
3. Padyam- Water for washing the feet
4. Arghyam- Water for washing the hands
5. Achamaneeyam- A few drops of water for sipping
6. Snanam- Bathing with water, milk or honey
7. Vastram- Garments to cover the body
8. Yajnopaveetam- The sacred thread placed across the left shoulder and the right bottom part of the trunk
9. Gandham- Sandal paste
10. Pushpam- Flower or flowers
11. Dhoopam- Burning incense for fragrance and to intensify the feelings of devotion
12. Deepam- Lighting to remove darkness, symbolizes enlightenment
13. Naivedyam- Food for nourishment
14. Tamboolam- Betel leaves with nut and other ingredients, a condiment that signifies completion of a meal.
15. Neerajanam- Offering of camphor enkindled to have a better look of the Supreme both within and without
16. Atma Pradakshina Namaskaram- Prostration before the Lord as a mark of self-surrender after making a parikrama.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

(1) Aavahan or Invocation or Praan Prathishta: We invite the Invisible Supreme Soul to manifest through the idol or photo that we keep in front of us for our prayers or Puja, or we imagine that God is residing in it or we imagine that God manifested in and through the idol or photo accepting our prayers or imagine that the idol or photo has life and God is accepting our prayers through the Idol or photo.

(2) Asan or Simhasan or Throne: As we cannot and do not have the capacity to offer a magnificent throne to Lord, Who is the owner of the whole universe, we offer HIM a seat, according to our capacity, thinking that HE feels comfortable, and start decorating it inwardly with all kinds of precious stones, jewels, gold, flowers, cushions, etc., the best we can think of and request the Lord to be seated to accept our offerings.

(3) Padyam. This includes the symbolic offering of water for washing the feet. This custom dates back since the days when very few used to wear shoes or chappals and those days without convenient transport facility. Offering water to wash the dust and dirt off the feet. It is also a sign of respect to offer water to wash one's feet. We can see the references to this act in our scriptures, especially with reference to Rishis, Sages, etc. We also do Pada Puja (worshipping the holy feet) to Saints in our houses.

(4) Arghyam: As we imagine God has assumed the shape of a human being with two legs, two or four hands, one or more heads, etc., moved by our prayer, we offer HIM water with a feeling that HE would like to wash HIS hands before accepting our offerings, as we do before doing something good or important, sacred or taking food.

(5) Achaman: We do Achaman (i.e., we sip water three times with mantras like Om Govindaya Namaha, Om Narayana Namaha, Om Madhavaya Namaha, etc.) facing or sitting towards East to cleanse our inner-self (Antharangam) with the water purified with Mantras, so that any thoughts that we might have entertained either before or after starting Puja will vanish from our mind. Like this, we purify ourselves. As we cleanse our body by taking bath, we cleanse our inner-self by taking water saturated or purified with Mantras.

Again here water is offered to God with a view that HE washes HIS face. It is the tradition in our houses that whenever any guest comes from outside, after ushering him into the house, we give him water for drinking as well as washing or at least sprinkling water on the face so that the guest feels relieved of the tiredness and strain of the journey.

(6) Snanam/Bath: Bath given to the God with Ganga Jal or milk, or honey, or with perfumed water, etc.

(7) Vastra Yugmam: Then we offer good clothes to God and decorate HIM with excellent quality clothes, according to our capacity, as we do to our children on their birthdays.

(8) Yagnopaveetam: We then offer HIM Yagnopaveetam, a sacred thread placed across the left shoulder and the right bottom part of the trunk.

(9) Gandham: We offer God scented chandan (sandal paste) so as to give coolness to HIS body. The royal kings used to do this in the olden days. We offer Oordhwapundram or decorate God with Tilak or some such decoration to God's face. The next step is Alankar God with Abharanas or jewels. As we feel that by wearing such and such ornaments, we look beautiful or we beautify ourselves with all kinds of alankaras, the same way, we should also feel that the Lord is Self only and we should decorate HIM with the same feeling and purpose so that HE looks beautiful.

(10) Pushpa Puja (Archana): We offer flowers to God with a lot of love and devotion to please HIM. Of late it has become a practice to offer broken or withered flowers, may be due to scarcity and sky-racketing prices of flowers, but, in fact, it must not be done so. God is full of compassion and mercy and HE does not protest, as HE understands our compulsions. We should offer a flower for each one of HIS sacred and kalyana name that we recite, whether it is Ashtothra or Sahasranama. Here we should always remember one very important point that most of us just throw flowers and Akshatas at God, in a routine way. But, it is not the right procedure. We should recite the names of our Lord with a lot of love and affection and with each name that we recite with love and bhava (feeling), we offer a flower to the Lord in such a way that first we bring the flower near to our chest or heart and offer it at the feet of Lord with a feeling that, Oh God! I am offering my heart (Colorful Hridaya Pushp) at Your Lotus Feet. Kindly accept it and remove all my Doshas such as Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Mada, Macharya, Irsha, Dwesha, Ahankara, etc. Kindly take me into your fold my Lord.

That is the essence or meaning behind offering colorful flowers to Lord. Bhava is very important in all our spiritual (of course, even in social) activities. The same method is applicable while offering Akshitas or Kumkum or any such offering to Lord. It should always be humble, and never routine and mechanical. In other words, Archana is the heartfelt offering of Love to God. In Archana a devotee calls God with a variety of names as a loved one is called by different names affectionately.

(11) Dhoopam: Dhoop represents the Gandh (fragrance) aspect of the senses. A Satvic sense of depicting a pure Gandha sense is the Dhoop. As we give Dhoop to babies in our residences, which is still in vogue in villages, especially in rainy season, so as to make the skin dry
and fresh and protect them from diseases like cold, etc., due to high content of water in the air, we offer Dhoop to Lord also.

(12) Deepam: Deepam is the Tejas or fire aspect. We light the lamp immediately after Dhoop with a view to see Lord more clearly and also to witness the beauty and majesty of the Lord is after alankaras. The words Tamasoma Jyothirgamaya, indicate the essence of bhava behind keeping a lamp in front of the Lord. The spiritual significance is: Oh God! Light my heart with the prakasha of knowledge and dispel the darkness of ignorance. It also signifies that the (true) Atman is revealed if one lights his heart with the lamp of Pure Love and Right Knowledge. With this bhava at heart, we light a lamp (Diya) or lamps in front of God. The other angle to this is that the lamp indicates auspicious sign. It has an important position in the Puja of Hindus.

The main reason for keeping the lamp in front of God is that it is a sign of good omen (Mangala or Shubha kaarakam). The other reason is that in the olden days, where there was no electricity or limited use of electricity, our ancestors used to keep lamp(s) in front of God, so as to see HIS image or photo or HIS Divya Rupa clearly. Probably, even today one can notice in olden temples, in the sanctum sanctorum, that they do not keep or allow electricity bulbs. They show the God to devotees with the help of Aarati. Another reason, which I feel true, is that after we decorate God we perform Aarati, immediately after offering Dhoop with an anxiety or eagerness or desire to see how the Lord looks and see the Deity to one's heart content. The light in front of the Deity will help us to see the image more clearly, especially in the smoke of Dhoopam.

(13) Naivedyam: Naivedyam is the Rasa (taste) aspect of the senses. We offer all kinds and varieties of delicious food items, which include sweets, fruits, etc., to God, with all love, as if Ma Yashoda is feeding Krishna, or Mata Sabari is offering fruits, although tasted first, to Lord Rama. See the Bhava here. In fact, I was told that coconut is not compulsory in Puja, but somehow it has become a part of it now. (The meaning and purpose of breaking a coconut is
dealt with separately and will follow later).

(14) Thaambulam/Betel Leaves: As we offer Nut-powder (Supari) or Paan to guests at the end of a meal, we offer Lord betel leaves with supari (nut powder and spices) so that HE digests easily whatever we offered to HIM to eat. Here we should not offer HIM money, as it is
offered only when we offer Dakshina.

(15) Neeraajanam: After completing all the above Upachaaraas to Lord, we do Neerajanam with a view to remove any Drishti Dosha (evil sight) as we all know that HE has a wonderful personality and added to it, HE has been decorated so well and looking so handsome that it is very difficult for a devotee to take away his sight from HIM. This we do with pure love as we do it to our own small children. It is the practice in our houses/temples that immediately after Aarati, we pay our respects to that camphor flame by putting our palms over it and putting those hands on our eyes. But, I was told that, it is wrong, because the intention behind giving Aarati is to remove any evil sight (Drishti Dosha) and also to show God more clearly to the devotees, but not for any other purpose.

As we do not pay respects to
such activity when we do it for our children, the same way, we should not do it in temples or at homes after Aarati. And that flame should be kept aside and sprinkle a few drops of water to remove Dosha, as we wash the legs and hands of our children and wipe the eyes with water, immediately after removing Drishti Dosha. Neerajanam signifies the end of Sakara or Bahya (outward) Puja and is at the end to denote that all the Doshas and impurities will vanish in thin air after burning the Ajnan in the Jnanagni or Tapas.

(16) Atma pradakshina, Mantra pushpam and Uavasana: We offer flowers and Akshatas with Mantras to Lord. It is done mainly to highlight and explain the divinity, greatness, compassion and love of God over HIS subjects or devotees. After doing all the above, if knowingly or unknowingly we commit any mistake, either in the performance of Puja or in our Bhava, we request God to forgive us, as we are human beings and our Manas or mind is subject to flirtations, and keep us in HIS Karuna Dhrishi (Merciful eyes) always so that we will not repeat such mistakes in future. Also we request HIM to bless us as we wish to offer all the above upacharas every day to HIM. Then we do Pradakshina, not only around the Lord, but also around ourselves, to indicate that my Lord you are in me as Soul and doing Atmapradakshina means doing Pradakshina around YOU only.

Then we do pranam (prostration) and then offer Kshama Prardhana or Aparatha Kshamapana, with a view to offer all the mistakes at the Lord's Lotus Feet. Having manifested in and through the idol that we kept in our Puja Mandir and accepted our prayers and sevas, now we request the Lord to take rest in our hearts and live there forever, so that the divinity is manifested through us and ultimately we realize our innate divinity within and without, in other words, we merge in HIM thus removing the ignorance forever. The Sevas both in Sakara or Nirakara procedures are performed with a view to reach Him ultimately, which is known as Puja. In the Sakara or Bahya Puja style, the devotee directly (if he knows the significance) or indirectly worships his Ishta Daivam through offer of sevas in the shape of external articles to the object of worship, thereby involving Pancha Tanmatras (i.e., Sabda, Sparsa, Rupa, Rasa and Gandha) or Panch Jnanedriyas (i.e., Eyes, Ears, Nose, Tongue and Skin) while offering Dhoopa, Deepa, Naivedya, Alankaras to the Lord.

The gross aspects of the Pancha Tanmatras in Puja are the Pancha Upacharas. They are Pushp, Dhoop, Deep, Naivedya and Gandh. The corresponding Pancha Mahabhoothas (Five Elements) are Sky/Ether (Akasam), Air (Vayu), Fire (Agni), Water (Jal) and Earth (Prithvi), which indicate respectively the vastness of heart, the fastness of manas, the tejas, the amrit and the patience (saburi) aspects of human being. In Manasik Puja, the devotee mentally dedicates everything at the sacred feet of his Ishta Daivam. In fact, Manasika Puja is considered superior to Bahya Puja. In other words, Puja should not and cannot be a rigid and systematic procedure, without which one cannot offer oneself to God, but it should be more of love oriented or bhava pradhana offering to God.

Then only the heart opens up, otherwise it would be a routine and mechanical procedure to be followed. Through Puja, the devotee's love and sense of belonging for his Ishta Daivam grow and thus the Bhava or relationship with Ishta Daivam matures and finally the devotee will succeed in establishing in his real self (Swa-swarup) through gradually experiencing oneness with the Ishta Daivam. Having understood what Puja is, now let us try to analyze and understand the essence behind Sakara and Nirakara or Bahya and Manasika Pujas.

Arranging the Articles: First of all, before sitting in front of our Ista Daivam, we keep all articles that are required for performing Bahya Puja wholeheartedly and successfully.

Physical freshness: Purity of body is conducive in making the mind pure, so that only purity emanates from us. So, we keep ourselves fresh before we start any Puja or any sacred work in order to get only right feelings and thoughts while we are performing Puja, and also emanate only such statements from us. Freshness also helps us to keep our concentration on what we are doing or offering to God. One should wear vibhuthi, chandan, namam or kumkum. Then we do Pranayamam before Sankalpam.

Sankalpam: Sankalp or Sankalpam, literally means, taking a firm decision or forming a firm opinion. No work can be successfully accomplished without dedication. Like-wise, no Puja can be performed satisfactorily without invoking HIS blessings through sincere devotion and complete surrender. We pray to Lord to bless us to successfully fulfil our resolve to worship HIM through performing HIS Puja with heart, mind, soul and all senses together. Here in Puja, Sankalpam means reciting those words which will indicate what, who and where we are. Unless one starts any work, especially the one which is being done for the society at large, with pure and sacred sankalpa, the end result will be disastrous. Sruti Smruti Puranokta Phalaprapyartham, which means, that in Srutis (Vedas), Smrutis (Manu Smriti, etc.) and Puranas, it has been said that any karma being done with a desire should be started with a pure and sacred Sankalpa to get the expected result. The idea behind praying for the Sankalpasiddhi is to eradicate the feeling of doership or Ahankar.

In other words, the result of Puja is thus offered to God. To achieve this object, first one should visualise the purpose or goal and plan meticulously what work should be done to achieve that particular goal and then start seeing the other points such as, who is the doer, where it is being held, when it is being performed, what is being done and what is the result of it. Once these have been identified and verified, then one needs to take Dhruda Nischay (firm resolve or Sankalpam) to do it according to the prescribed rules and regulations of that particular karma. These points have been included, probably, to make the devotee know and remember the place, the year, the month, the gotram, birth star, the thithi (star) or day, etc.

I personally feel that it was included in our system or tradition in olden days because the people from Brahmana varna were ordained to do all Puja ceremonies, astrological predictions, ceremonies in temples and society, etc., and if they do not remember the important points such as the time, day and date, the position of grahas, the name of the month or year or the relevant thithi, etc., they may err in their decisions and calculations resulting in wrong predictions. Now it has become a part and parcel of the Puja so as to tell God every day in which Kal(time)/Yug we are in, where (which area) we are offering Puja, which is the current year (name of the year -- there 60 names), month, ayana (side), paksha (shukla/krishna - i.e., first half or second half of the month) date and day (thithi), etc.

Kalasa Sthapanam or Kumbha: This involves invoking Lords Vishnu, Rudra and Brahma, four Vedas, Gayathri, waters from all oceans and sacred rivers, such as, Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna, Thungabhadra, Saraswati, Narmada, Sindhu, Cauvery, etc., in the water of Panchapatra, then sanctifying the vessel with Gandham, Kumkum, Akshata and Pushpam. After invocation, the Kalasodaka has to be sprinkled on all Puja materials and the persons performing Puja for purification.If Sankhapooja is to be done, then purified water has to be filled in the Sankha, then Puja offered to Sankha add a few drops of Sankhodaka to the vessel and then sprinkle the water on Puja materials and the persons performing Puja or Self (Atmanam ca Prokshyan). Then, Ghantanadam is to be done. Kumbha means water-pot. It symbolises fullness. Sanyasins and eminent persons are welcomed with a Purna-Kumbha (a pitcher filled with holy water). All the sacred rivers like Ganta, Yamuna, Saraswati, Krishna, Godavari, Kaveri, etc., are supposed to flow into the Kumbha, filling it.The Kumbha stands for generative power. Hence it is associated with the Divine Mother, the Grant Creation.

In worship, the deity is invoked to enter the Kumbha, remain there throughout the Puja and then go back to His or Her own abode. As the Kumbha is meant to serve as a temporary
image of the deity, its various components are equated with various parts of the deity. Thus the jar represents the body of the deity; the water in it stands for blood; the nine gems (navaratnas) placed in it represent the nine-fold spiritual power (siddhis); the kusha grass in the pitcher stands for blood vessels; the triple strands of yarn over the mouth of the jar stands for the nerves; the tower wound around the vessel is the skin, the coconut placed at the mouth of the jar represents the face, the kusha grass over the coconut stands for Lord Siva and the mango leaves above everything else stand for the matted locks of Siva.

During Kumbha-abhishekam the sanctified water in the vessel is poured over the pinnacle of the vimana above the garbhagriha of the deity. The is the climax of the consecration ceremony and huge crowds of men, women and children throng to get a sprinkling of the sacred water on their heads (taken from the Vedanta Kesari, February 2000 - A Monthly Journal of the Ramakrishna Order) The absolute God cannot be grasped by the human mind, so we require symbols.

If the devotee is very philosophical man, his symbol may be very abstract in nature: a vast expanse, the infinite sky, something unlimited. These are other images and conceptions, though subtle. A person who cannot think in an abstract way prefers to have more concrete symbols. So he has been given forms of the anthropomorphic type.

This is consistent with the three major conceptions of God: God the Absolute; the personal God with qualities, such as kindness and love, but no form; and the personal God with both form and qualities. In Hinduism, we find that the personal God has not only qualities, but a variety of forms as well. And why should this not be so? From a psychological point of view, the ideal needs to be presented according to the understanding of the devotee, all the while reminding him that it is through the worship of the form that he is to reach the formless aspect of the divine. This is the idea behind image worship in India. Image worship does not mean that some inert substance such as wood or stone is being worshipped. The image is also not a mere icon. It is a symbol of the lord. It reminds the devotee of the Lord, just as a photograph reminds us of the thing photographed (Ref. "Concept of God in Hinduism" by Swami Swahananda from The Vedanta Kesari, February 2000)

The idol is a support for us in spiritual childhood. A form or image is necessary for worship in the beginning. It is an external symbol of God for worship. It is the reminder of God. The material image calls up the mental data. Steadiness of the mind is obtained by image worship. The worshipper will have to associate the idea of infinity, omnipotence, purity, perfection, freedom, holiness, truth and omnipresence. It is not possible for all to fix the mind Absolute. A concrete form is necessary for practicing concentration. To behold God everywhere and to practice the presence of God is not possible for the ordinary man. Idol worship is the easiest form of worship for the modern man. Idol worship is not just limited to Hinduism. Christians worship the Cross. They have the image of Cross in their mind. The Muslims keep the image of the Kaaba stone when they kneel and do prayers. The people of the whole world keep some image or the other in their mind. The mental image is also a form of idol. Everyone is thus idol worshipper.

Pictures, drawings, symbols etc. are all forms of idol only. Idols are not the idle fancies of sculptors, but are shining channels through' which the heart of the devotee is attracted to God and flows towards him. Many would say, "Oh God is an all pervading formless being and how can God be confined to this idol!" Are these people ever conscious of His omnipresence? Do they always see Him alone in everything? No, It is their ego that prevents them from bowing to the idols of God and with that motive, they put this excuse forward. The idol is a substitute or symbol. The image in a temple though it be made of stone, wood or metal is precious for a devotee as it bears the mark of his Lord, as it represents something which he holds holy and eternal. A flag is only a small piece of painted cloth, but to a soldier it stands something that he holds very dear. He is prepared to give up his life in defending his flag. Similarly, the image is very dear to a devotee. It speaks to him in its own language of devotion. The image arouses devotion in the devotee. A piece of ordinary white paper or colored paper has no value. We throw it away. However, if there is the stamp of Government on the paper (currency note), we keep it safe in pocket. Even, so an ordinary piece of stone has no value for us. We throw it away. However, if we behold the stone idol, we all bow our heads with folded palms, because there is the stamp of beloved lord on the stone. When you worship an image, we do not say; "this image has come from Punderpur. It was bought by Shriram. Its weight is 50 lbs. It is made of white marble. It has cost me Rs. 500/-" No! We superimpose all the attributes of the Lord on the image and pray. When our devotion and meditation become intense and deep, we do not see the stone image. We behold the Lord only who is pure Consciousness. Image worship is very necessary for beginners. By worshipping the idol, the Lord is pleased. The idol is made up of the five elements. The five elements constitute the body of the Lord. The idol remains an idol, but the worship goes to the Lord. If you shake hands with a man, he is highly pleased. You have touched only a small part of his body and yet he is happy. He smiles and welcomes you.

Even so, the Lord is highly pleased when a small portion of his cosmic body is worshipped. An idol is a part of the body of the Lord. The whole world is His body. The devotion goes to the Lord. The worshipper superimposes on the images the Lord and his attributes. This is one of the easiest forms of self-realization. It is one that suits the majority of people today. A look at the picture of God will elevate our mind to divine heights. This is truly a wonder and a miracle. The idol or photograph of any God or Goddess is not just Stone or paper or whatever other material but is a symbol of the true deity so that we can focus our attention to the deity. With constant Puja, even a personal photo or idol worshipped by a devotee acquires a distinct identity of its own and starts responding to the devotee.

The idol of a deity in a temple is all the more powerful since the Deity is invoked by Mantras and regular Pujas. As prescribed in the AGAMA SASTRAS, Yantras are also installed under the idols to increase the power of the deity many fold. Thus a powerful aura is built around the idol. Any object, be it ARATI, kum kum, turmeric, sandal paste, or holy water or even the clothes used to adorn the deity acquire a part of the aura. Thus we get a part of the deity's powerful and beneficial aura when we bring any of these sacred objects near to us. Scriptures say that humans have nine RANDHRAS, (Navarandhras) i.e., orifices in our physical as well as astral bodies. Out of them, seven are in our head (mouth, two nostrils, two ears, and two eyes). The other two are meant for excretion of waste products from the body situated at the posterior end. Thus when we bring the palms, which are placed over the ARATI to our eyes, not only our eyes but our nostrils too get charged with the positive aura. When we hear the hymns and bells, our ears get purified. When we take the holy water our mouth gets purified. When the SATHA GOPURAM (the bell shaped piece in a Hindu temple with the feet of the God, placed on the head of the devotee by the priest at the end of the worship) is placed on our head our SAHASRA CHAKRA gets charged.

Thus ARATI and other holy articles which are taken into the close proximity of the deity and are then given to us act as carriers or vehicles of the positive energy from the deity to us. The purpose is thus probably different from the ARATI given to small children to protect them from evil eye. The first is of course to do with light. Many temples in India are dimly lit and Arati gives an opportunity to get a better view of the God. Thus the light is physical and the devotion it evokes in the mind of the devotee helps kindle the spiritual light. While Arati is performed with many types of lamps, camphor is the most common ingredient in all temples. Camphor has excellent medicinal properties; especially it protects against many diseases in a hot climate that pervades most of India. The camphor and other aromatic substances purify the atmosphere and when the devotees place their palms over the Arati and bring the palms to their eyes and nose, they absorb the medicinal benefits. This is born out by the books on Homeopathy. The camphor used for Arati lasts for a little time thus signifying the short span of human life and the Avidya or Agnana caused by the attachment Maya, in the shape of physical and sensual pleasures. Thus, Arati inspires the devotee to seek God who is permanent and all pervading. "Make hay while the sun shines" is a popular adage. Since Arati lasts for a little time only, it compels the devotee to focus his attention on the God.

Bells are usually rung while the Arati is given. The rhythmic sounds of the bells have a nice soothing and calming effect on our mind and help us seeing and sensing the shapeless God in the physical image that is being worshipped in front of us. In many temples, the Arati is also accompanied by chanting of Vedic Mantras or beautiful songs, which extol the virtues of the presiding deity, especially the all-pervasiveness. This activity reinforces the devotion of the devotee in his chosen path to reach spiritual enlightenment. Shri Sri Yogananda Paramahansa said, "When an offering is made of flowers or incense or flame from oil lamps or candles on the altar, they represent the devotion of man to God. The flowers symbolize the fragrant love of the devotee; the incense conveys reverence; the flame typifies the light of calmness in which is revealed the Divine Deity, residing on the altar of the heart" One may see the ritual of worship not as a mere physical exercise but as a real means through a communication between the self and the supreme is established. Understanding of such a communication is essential to reap the harvest of spiritual benefits.. Rituals may not be limited to the act of reinforcing one's stance on earth, a religious identity. It should be the vehicle that leads one to the understanding of the entity that is fundamental to the origin of all religions. Such a communication can only be unifying and not divisive.

This series may be aptly concluded by a quote from Ishopanishad, the mention of which is also made in Sri Sai Satcharitha: Isa vasya midam sarvam yatkinch jagatyam jagat tena tyaktena bhumjidha ma grudhah kasya cit dhanam God is omnipresent and HE owns this universe. We should, therefore, enjoy it with a feeling of sacrifice, to the extent that is necessary for us and the rest should be left to others in the society and never ever feel jealous of others.

Jai Bharath

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For today: Lakshmi Puja

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The goddess, variously called Devi, Ambal, Lakshmi, Shakthi, is one of the most important figures in the Hindu pantheon. Tradition tells us to pray to the Goddess first, because with her kind and benevolent heart, she will intercede with the Lord for the granting of any boon. While the goddess represents everything from power to prosperity, in the form of Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu, she is a symbol of wealth.

Visitors to the hill shrine of Tirupati, after offering worship at the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Srinivasa, circumambulate the shrine and then come to the figurine of Goddess Lakshmi set high up in the wall. She is in standing posture with gold coins pouring out of her hand. They reach up and touch her feet. Even children too small to reach the image are lifted up and the ritual is gone through.

In Chennai, one of the most popular shrines is the Ashtalakshmi Temple in Besant Nagar. Located close to the sea, the winding steps take one to one manifestation of Lakshmi after the other. It is said that Lakshmi will enter the house of anyone who thinks of her and bless them. There are many festivals in the year dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi. Among them, Varalakshmi Vratham is unique because it is marked by strict observance of certain practices and austerities. It is also called Varalakshmi Nonbu. The puja falls on the Friday before the full moon in the Tamil month of Aadi. This year, it occurs on August 8.

The name Varalakshmi itself can be interpreted in two ways. In one sense, Varalakshmi is one who grants boons. In another, she is the Goddess who is invited into the home and honoured. The different types of benefits that will accrue thanks to performing the Varalakshmi puja are "dhan" (money), "dhanyam" (grains or food), "arogyam" (health), "sampath" (property), "sathsanthanam" (virtuous offspring) and "dheerga saumangalyam" (longevity of the husband).

Performing the Varalakshmi puja is said to be equivalent to worshipping all the different forms of Lakshmi. The evening before the day of the puja, the area for its performance is cleaned and decorated. A bronze or silver kalasam (special pot) is filled with rice or water and coins, a whole lime, five types of leaves and betel leaves and betel nut. The kalasam is smeared with sandal paste and covered with a new cloth up to the neck. A coconut applied with turmeric paste is placed on top with mango leaves around. An image of the Goddess made of different materials, including cloth, is affixed to this. The kalasam is deemed to be the Goddess herself. Offerings of pongal are made and arathi is performed.

The next morning, before rahu kalam, the kalasam is placed on a bed of rice. This signifies that Lakshmi has entered the house. After the installation, a puja beginning with an invocation to Lord Vinayaka begins. During the puja, the Lakshmi Sahasranamam and other slokas dedicated to Varalakshmi are chanted. Different types of sweets are offered to the Goddess.

The women and girls of the house tie yellow coloured saradu or thread around their wrists. Thamboolam is given to other "sumangalis" (married women) who are invited to the house that evening. The woman who has performed the puja observes a fast on that day, eating only certain things. The following day the holy water in the kalasam is sprinkled throughout the house. If rice has been used in the place of water then it is mixed with the rice stored in the house.

The legend behind the Varalakshmi puja and vratam is fascinating. It was a game of dice which caused a small tiff between Lord Shiva and Parvati as to who was the victor. An honest gana, Chitranemi, was asked to arbitrate and he decided in Shiva's favour. An angry Parvati cursed him to suffer from leprosy. When Shiva pleaded with her, she gave in and said the day women in the world observed Varalakshmi puja, Chitranemi would get deliverance. Chitranemi got relief when he observed some women performing the puja. Ever since then, this vratham has been observed.

The following article applies as much to the various heterodox sects <i>within</i> Hinduism, as to other religious traditions. IOW, the article takes a look at the "universalist" theories that were manufactured during the colonial period by certain Indian religious leaders. The article proposes to show how this trend is culturally and socially detrimental to Hinduism. Makes a few interesting points.

<b>Note: "Radical Universalism" is a euphemism for "a hodgepodge that is not at all faithful to scripture (shruti, etc), but twists it out of shape in a self-serving manner".</b>
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Does Hinduism teach that all religions are the same?

<b>A Philosophical Critique of Radical Universalism </b>

It is by no means an exaggeration to say that the ancient religion of Hinduism has been one of the least understood religious traditions in the history of world religion. The sheer number of stereotypes, misconceptions and outright false notions about what Hinduism teaches, as well as about the precise practices and behavior that it asks of its followers, outnumber those of any other religion currently known. Leaving the more obviously grotesque crypto-colonialist caricatures of cow-worshipping, caste domination and sutee aside, even many of the most fundamental theological and philosophical foundations of Hinduism often remain inexplicable mysteries to the general public and supposed scholars of Hindu Studies. <b>More disturbing, however, is the fact that many wild misconceptions about the beliefs of Hinduism are prevalent even among the bulk of purported followers of Hinduism and, alarmingly, even to many purportedly learned spiritual teachers, gurus and swamis who claim to lead the religion in present times. </b>

Of the many current peculiar concepts mistakenly ascribed to Hindu theology, one of the most widely misunderstood is the idea that Hinduism somehow teaches that all religions are equal… that all religions are the same, with the same purpose, goal, experientially tangible salvific state, and object of ultimate devotion. So often has this notion been thoughtlessly repeated by so many -- from the common Hindu parent to the latest swamiji arriving on American shores yearning for a popular following -- that it has now become artificially transformed into a supposed foundation stone of modern Hindu teachings. Many Hindus are now completely convinced that this is actually what Hinduism teaches. Despite its widespread popular repetition, however, does Hinduism actually teach the idea that all religions are really the same? Even a cursory examination of the long history of Hindu philosophical thought, as well as an objective analysis of the ultimate logical implications of such a proposition, quickly makes it quite apparent that traditional Hinduism has never supported such an idea.

<b>The doctrine of what I call 'Radical Universalism' makes the claim that “all religions are the same.” This dogmatic assertion is of very recent origin, and has become one of the most harmful misconceptions in the Hindu world in the last 150 or so years. It is a doctrine that has directly led to a self-defeating philosophical relativism that has, in turn, weakened the stature and substance of Hinduism to its very core. The doctrine of Radical Universalism has made Hindu philosophy look infantile in the eyes of non-Hindus, has led to a collective state of self-revulsion, confusion and shame in the minds of too many Hindu youth, and has opened the Hindu community to be preyed upon much more easily by the zealous missionaries of other religions. The problem of Radical Universalism is arguably the most important issue facing the global Hindu community today. In the following paragraphs, we will perform an in-depth examination of the intrinsic fallacies contained in this inherently non-Hindu idea, as well as the untold damage that Radical Universalism has wrought in modern Hinduism.</b>

What's a Kid to Do? 

Indian Hindu parents are to be given immense credit. The daily challenges that typical Hindu parents face in encouraging their children to maintain their commitment to Hinduism are enormous and very well-known. Hindu parents try their best to observe fidelity to the religion of their ancestors, often having little understanding of the religion themselves other than what was given to them, in turn, by their own parents. All too many Indian Hindu youth, on the other hand, find themselves unattracted to a religion that is little comprehended or respected by most of those around them – Hindu and non-Hindu alike. Today's Hindu youth seek more strenuously convincing reasons for following a religion than merely the argument that it is the family tradition. Today's Hindu youth demand, and deserve, cogent philosophical explanations about what Hinduism actually teaches, and why they should remain Hindu rather than join any of the many other religious alternatives they see around them. Temple priests are often ill equipped to give these bright Hindu youth the answers they so sincerely seek… mom and dad are usually even less knowledgeable than the temple pujaris. What is a Hindu child to do?

As I travel the nation delivering lectures on Hindu philosophy and spirituality, I frequently encounter a repeated scenario. Hindu parents will often approach me after I've finished my lecture and timidly ask if they can have some advice. The often-repeated story goes somewhat like this:

“We raised our son/daughter to be a good Hindu. We took them to the temple for important holidays. We even sent him/her to a Hindu camp for a weekend when they were 13. Now at the age of 23, our child has left Hinduism and converted to the (fill in the blank) religion. When we ask how could they have left the religion of their family, the answer that they throw back in our face is: 'but mama/dada, you always taught us that all religions are the same, and that it doesn't really matter how a person worships God. So what does it matter if we've followed your advice and switched to another religion?'”

Many of you currently reading this article have probably been similarly approached by parents expressing this same dilemma. The truly sad thing about this scenario is that the child is, of course, quite correct in her assertion that she is only following the logical conclusion of her parents' often-repeated mantra of “all religions are the same.” If all religions are exactly the same, after all, and if we all just end up in the same place in the end anyway, then what does it really matter what religion we follow? Hindu parents complain when their children adopt other religions, but without understanding that it was precisely this highly flawed dogma of Radical Universalism, and not some inherent flaw of Hinduism itself, that has driven their children away. My contention is that parents themselves are not to be blamed for espousing this non-Hindu idea to their children. <b>Rather, much of the blame is to be placed at the feet of today's ill equipped Hindu teachers and leaders, the supposed guardians of authentic Dharma teachings. </b>

In modern Hinduism, we hear from a variety of sources this claim that all religions are equal. Unfortunately, the most damaging source of this fallacy is none other than the many un-informed spiritual leaders of the Hindu community itself. <b>I have been to innumerable pravachanas, for example, where a benignly grinning guruji will provide his audience with the following tediously parroted metaphor, what I call the Mountain Metaphor.</b>

The Mountain Metaphor:
“Truth (or God or Brahman) lies at the summit of a very high mountain. There are many diverse paths to reach the top of the mountain, and thus attain the one supreme goal. Some paths are shorter, some longer. The path itself, however, is unimportant. The only truly important thing is that seekers all reach the top of the mountain.”

While this simplistic metaphor might seem compelling at a cursory glance, it leaves out a very important elemental supposition: it makes the unfounded assumption that everyone wants to get to the top of the same mountain! As we will soon see, not every religion shares the same goal, the same conception of the Absolute (indeed, even the belief that there is an Absolute), or the same means to their respective goals. Rather, there are many different philosophical 'mountains', each with their own very unique claim to be the supreme goal of all human spiritual striving. As I will show, <b>Radical Universalism is not only an idea that is riddled with self-contradictory implications, but it is a doctrine that never originated from traditional Hinduism at all. </b>

A Tradition of Tolerance, Not Capitulation

Historically, pre-colonial classical Hinduism never taught that all religions are the same. This is not to say, however, that Hinduism has not believed in tolerance or freedom of religious thought and expression. It has very clearly always been a religion that has taught tolerance of other valid religious traditions. However, the assertion that a) we should have tolerance for the beliefs of other religions is a radically different claim from the overreaching declaration that, b) all religions are the same. And this confusion between two thoroughly separate assertions may be one reason why so many modern Hindus believe that Hindu tolerance is synonymous with Radical Universalism. To maintain a healthy tolerance of another person's religion does not mean that we have to then adopt that person's religion!

Traditional Hinduism has always been the most tolerant, patient and welcoming of all religions. Hinduism is not a religion that persecutes others merely for having a difference in theological belief. Hindu India, for example, has been the sole nation on earth where the Jewish community was never persecuted. This is the case despite the presence of Jews in India for over 2000 years. Similarly, Zoroastrian refugees escaping the destruction of the Persian civilization at the hands of Islamic conquerors were greeted with welcome refuge in India over 1000 years ago. The Zoroastrian community (now known as the Parsee community) in India has thrived in all these many centuries, living together with their Hindu neighbors in peace and mutual respect. Hinduism has been a religion that has always sought to live side-by-side peacefully with the followers of other, non-Hindu, religions, whether they were the indigenous Indian religions of Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism or the foreign religions of Christianity and Islam.

In keeping with the Vedic adage that the guest in one's home is to be treated with as much hospitality as one would treat a visiting divinity, Hinduism has always been gracious to the followers of non-Hindu religions, and respectful of the gods, scriptures and customs of others. The tolerance and openness of Hinduism has been historically unprecedented among the wider community of world religions, universally acclaimed, and very well attested.

The common mistake that is often made, however, is to mistake the long-held Hindu tradition of tolerating other religions with the mistaken notion that Hinduism consequently encourages us to believe that all religions are exactly the same. We have mistaken Hindu tolerance with Radical Universalism. The leap from tolerance of other faiths to a belief that all religions are equal is not a leap that is grounded in logic. Nor is it grounded in the history, literature or philosophy of the Hindu tradition itself.

Uniquely Hindu: The Crisis of the Hindu Lack of Self-Worth

In general, many of the world's religions have been periodically guilty of fomenting rigid sectarianism and intolerance among their followers. We have witnessed, especially in the record of the more historically recent Western religions, that religion has sometimes been used as a destructive mechanism misused to divide people, to conquer others in the name of one's god, and to make artificial and oppressive distinctions between 'believers' and 'non-believers'. Being an inherently non-fundamentalist world-view, Hinduism has naturally always been keen to distinguish its own tolerant approach to spirituality vis-à-vis more sectarian and conflict oriented notions of religion. Modern Hindus are infamous for bending over backwards to show the world just how non-fanatical and open-minded we are, even to the point of denying ourselves the very right to unapologetically celebrate our own Hindu tradition.

<b>Unfortunately, in our headlong rush to devolve Hinduism of anything that might seem to even remotely resemble the closed-minded sectarianism sometimes found in other religions, we often forget the obvious truth that Hinduism is itself a systematic and self-contained religious tradition in its own right.</b> <i>{e.g.: the strange revulsion of certain Hindus to associate the word "monotheism" with the Vedas}</i> In the same manner that Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, or Jainism have their own unique and specific beliefs, doctrines and claims to spiritual authority, all of which fall within the firmly demarcated theological bounds of their own unique traditions, Hinduism too has just such Hindu-centric theological and institutional bounds. Like every other religion, Hinduism is a distinct and unique tradition, with its own in-built beliefs, world-view, traditions, rituals, concept of the Absolute, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, cosmology, cosmogony, and theology. The grand, systematic philosophical construct that we call Hinduism today is the result of the extraordinary efforts and spiritual insights of the great rishis, yogis, acharyas and gurus of our religion, guided by the transcendent light of the Vedic revelation, that has stood the test of time. It is a tradition that is worthy of healthy celebration by Hindus and respectful admiration by non-Hindus.

Hindus have no more reason to be uncomfortable with the singular uniqueness of our own spiritual tradition, or less of a reason to boldly assert our own exceptional contributions to the development of global religious thought, than do the followers of any other venerable faith. This is an obvious, yet all too often forgotten fact, the importance of which cannot be overstated: Hinduism is its own uniquely independent religious tradition, different and distinct from any other religion on earth. There is a Hindu philosophy, a Hindu world-view, a Hindu set of ethics, a Hindu theology, a Hindu spiritual culture, a Hindu view on the nature of God (Ishvara), personhood (jiva) and material reality (jagat). In short, there is a distinctly Hindu tradition.

Such a recognition of Hinduism's unique features is not to deny that there will always be several important similarities between many of the religions of the world. Indeed, the human impetus to know Truth being a universally experienced phenomenon, it would be quite surprising indeed if there were not some common features discernable in all the diverse religions of our common earth. While interesting commonalities and similarities can always be seen and appreciated, however, it would be misleading to consequently deny that Hinduism, like every other separate religious tradition, is also to be plainly contrasted in myriad ways from any other religion. Such a realization and acceptance of Hinduism's unique place in the world does not, by any stretch of the imagination, have to lead automatically to sectarianism, strife, conflict or religious chauvinism. Indeed, such a recognition of Hinduism's distinctiveness is crucial if Hindus are to possess even a modicum of healthy self-understanding, self-respect and pride in their own tradition. Self-respect and the ability to celebrate one's unique spiritual tradition are basic psychological needs, and a cherished civil right of any human being, Hindu and non-Hindu alike.

Letting the Tradition Speak for Itself

<b>When we look at the philosophical, literary and historical sources of the pre-colonial Hindu tradition, we find that the notion of Radical Universalism is overwhelmingly absent. The idea that 'all religions are the same' is not found in the sacred literature of Hinduism, among the utterances of the great philosopher-acharyas of Hinduism, or in any of Hinduism's six main schools of philosophical thought (the Shad-darshanas).</b> Throughout the history of the tradition, such great Hindu philosophers as Vyasa, Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, Vijnana Bhikshu, Swami Narayana (Sahajananda Swami), and others made very unambiguous and unapologetic distinctions between the religion of Hinduism and non-Hindu religions. The sages of pre-modern Hinduism had no difficulty in boldly asserting what was, and what was not, to be considered Hindu. And they did so often! This lucid sense of religious community and philosophical clarity is seen first and foremost in the very question of what, precisely, constitutes a 'Hindu'. Without knowing the answer to this most foundational of questions, it is impossible to fully assess the damaging inadequacies of Radical Universalist dogma.

Who is a Hindu?

<b>Remarkably, when the question of who is a Hindu is discussed today, we get a multitude of confused and contradictory answers from both Hindu laypersons and from Hindu leaders. That we have such a difficult time understanding the answer to even so fundamental a question as 'who is a Hindu?' is a starkly sad indicator of the lack of knowledge in the Hindu community today. Some of the more simplistic answers to this question include: Anyone born in India is automatically a Hindu (the ethnicity fallacy); if your parents are Hindu, then you are Hindu (the familial argument); if you are born into a certain caste, then you are Hindu (the genetic inheritance model); if you believe in reincarnation, then you are Hindu (forgetting that many non-Hindu religions share at least some of the beliefs of Hinduism); if you practice any religion originating from India, then you are a Hindu (the national origin fallacy). The real answer to this question has already been conclusively answered by the ancient sages of Hinduism, and is actually much simpler to ascertain than we would guess. </b>

The two primary factors that distinguish the individual uniqueness of the great world religious traditions are: a) the scriptural authority upon which the tradition is based, and b) the fundamental religious tenet(s) that it espouses. If we ask the question 'what is a Jew?' for example, the answer is: someone who accepts the Torah as their scriptural guide and believes in the monotheistic concept of God espoused in these scriptures. What is a Christian? A person who accepts the Gospels as their scriptural guide and believes that Jesus is the incarnate God who died for their sins. What is a Muslim? Someone who accepts the Qur'an as their scriptural guide, and believes that there is no God but Allah, and that Mohammed is his prophet. In general, what determines whether a person is a follower of any particular religion is whether or not they accept, and attempt to live by, the scriptural authority of that religion. This is no less true of Hinduism than it is of any other religion on earth. Thus, the question of what is a Hindu is similarly very easily answered. By definition, a Hindu is an individual who accepts as authoritative the religious guidance of the Vedic scriptures, and who strives to live in accordance with Dharma, God's divine laws as revealed in the Vedic scriptures. In keeping with this standard definition, all the Hindu thinkers of the six traditional schools of Hindu philosophy (Shad-darshanas) insisted on the acceptance of the scriptural authority (shabda-pramana) of the Vedas as the primary criterion for distinguishing a Hindu from a non-Hindu, as well as distinguishing overtly Hindu philosophical positions from non-Hindu ones. It has been the historically accepted standard that, if you accept the Vedas (meaning the complete shruti and smrti canon of the Vedic scriptures, such as the four Vedas, Upanishads, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, etc.) as your scriptural authority, and lived your life in accordance with the Dharmic principles of the Vedas, you are then a Hindu. Thus, any Indian who rejects the authority of the Veda is obviously not a Hindu – regardless of their birth. While an American, Canadian, Russian, Brazilian, Indonesian or Indian who does accept the authority of the Veda obviously is a Hindu. One is Hindu, not by race, but by practice.

Clearly Defining Hinduism

Traditional Hindu philosophers continually emphasized the crucial importance of clearly understanding what was Hinduism proper and what were non-Hindu religious paths. You cannot claim to be a Hindu, after all, if you do not understand what it is that you claim to believe, and what it is that others believe. One set of antonymous Sanskrit terms repeatedly employed by many traditional Hindu philosophers were the words vaidika and avaidika. The word vaidika (or 'Vedic' in English) means one who accepts the teachings of the Veda. It refers specifically to the unique epistemological stance taken by the traditional schools of Hindu philosophy, known as shabda-pramana, or employing the divine sound current of Veda as a means of acquiring valid knowledge. In this sense the word 'vaidika' is employed to differentiate those schools of Indian philosophy that accept the <b>epistemological validity of the Veda as apaurusheya</b>, or a perfect authoritative spiritual source, eternal and <b>untouched by the speculations of humanity</b>, juxtaposed with the avaidika schools that do not ascribe such validity to the Veda. In pre-Christian times, <b>avaidika schools were clearly identified by Hindu authors as being specifically Buddhism, Jainism and the atheistic Charvaka school</b>, all of whom did not accept the Veda. These three schools were unanimously considered non-Vedic, and thus non-Hindu (they certainly are geographically Indian religions, but they are not theologically/ philosophically Hindu religions). Manu, one of the great ancient lawgivers of the Hindu tradition, states the following in his Manava-dharma-shastra:

All those traditions and all those disreputable systems of philosophy that are not based on the Veda produce no positive result after death; for they are declared to be founded on darkness. All those doctrines differing from the Veda that spring up and soon perish are ineffectual and misleading, because they are of modern date.

(XII, 95)

Stated in simpler terms, 'vaidika' specifically refers to those persons who accept the Veda as their sacred scripture, and thus as their source of valid knowledge about spiritual matters.

In his famous compendium of all the known Indian schools of philosophy, the Sarva-darshana-samgraha, Madhava Acharya (a 14th century philosopher) unambiguously states that Charvakins (atheist empiricists), 'Bauddhas' (Buddhists) and 'Arhatas' (Jains) are among the non-Vedic, and thus non-Hindu, schools. Conversely, he lists Paniniya, Vaishnava, Shaiva and others among the Vedic, or Hindu, traditions. Likewise, in his Prasthanabheda, the well-known Madhusudana Sarasvati (fl. 17th century C.E.) contrasts all the mleccha (or 'barbaric') viewpoints with Hindu views and says that the former are not even worthy of consideration, whereas the Buddhist views must at least be considered and debated. The differentiation between 'orthodox' and 'heterodox', from a classical Hindu perspective, rests upon acceptance of the Vedic revelation, with the latter rejecting the sanctity of the Veda. As a further attempt to clearly distinguish between Hindu and non-Hindu, Hindu philosophers regularly used the Sanskrit terms astika and nastika. The two terms are synonymous with vaidika and avaidika, respectively. Astika refers to those who believe in the Vedas, nastika to those who reject the Vedas. Under the astika category Hinduism would include any Hindu path that accepts the Veda, such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, Advaita, Yoga, Nyaya, Mimamsa, among others. The nastika religions would include any religious tradition that does not accept the Veda: Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity, Islam, Baha'i, etc. Thus when it came to the importance of unambiguously differentiating between the teachings of Hinduism and the teachings of non-Hindu religions, the most historically important sages of Hindu philosophical and theological thought were clearly advocates of Vaidika Dharma – Hinduism -- as a systematic, unitive tradition of spiritual expression.

Dharma Rakshaka: The Defenders of Dharma

With the stark exception of very recent times, Hinduism has historically always been recognized as a separate and distinct religious phenomenon, as a tradition unto itself. It was recognized as such by both outside observers of Hinduism, as well as from within, by Hinduism's greatest spiritual teachers. The saints and sages of Hinduism continuously strived to uphold the sanctity and gift of the Hindu world-view, often under the barrages of direct polemic opposition by non-Hindu traditions. Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Charvakins (atheists), the four main philosophical schools found in Indian history, would frequently engage each other in painstakingly precise debates, arguing compellingly over even the smallest conceptual minutia of philosophical subject matter. The sages of Hinduism met such philosophical challenges with cogent argument, rigid logic and sustained pride in their tradition, usually soundly defeating their philosophical opponents in open debate. Shankara Acharya, as only one of many examples of Hindu acharyas defending their religion, earned the title 'Digvijaya', or 'Conqueror of all Directions'. This indomitable title was awarded Shankara due solely to his formidable ability to defend the Hindu tradition from the philosophical incursions of opposing (purva-paksha), non-Hindu schools of thought. Indeed, Shankara is universally attributed by both scholars, as well as later, post-Shankara Hindu leaders, with being partially responsible for the historical decline of Buddhism in India due to his intensely polemic missionary activities. No Radical Universalist was he! The great teacher Madhva is similarly seen as being responsible for the sharp decline of Jainism in South India due to his immense debating skills in defense of Vaidika Dharma. All pre-modern Hindu sages and philosophers recognized and celebrated the singularly unique vision that Hinduism had to offer the world, clearly distinguished between Hindu and non-Hindu religions, and defended Hinduism to the utmost of their formidable intellectual and spiritual abilities. They did so unapologetically, professionally and courageously. The Hindu world-view only makes sense, has value, and will survive if we all similarly celebrate Hinduism's uniqueness today.

<b>Traditional Hinduism Versus Neo-Hinduism</b>

<b>A tragic occurrence in the very long history of Hinduism was witnessed throughout the 19th century, the destructive magnitude of which Hindu leaders and scholars today are only beginning to adequately assess and address. This development both altered and weakened Hinduism to such a tremendous degree that Hinduism has not yet even begun to recover.</b> The classical, traditional Hinduism that had been responsible for the continuous development of thousands of years of sophisticated culture, architecture, music, philosophy, ritual and theology came under devastating assault during the 19th century British colonial rule like at no other time in India's history. For a thousand years previous to the British Raj, foreign marauders had repeatedly attempted to destroy Hinduism through overt physical genocide and the systematic destruction of Hindu temples and sacred places. Traditional Hinduism's wise sages and noble warriors had fought bravely to stem this anti-Hindu holocaust to the best of their ability, more often than not paying for their bravery with their lives. What the Hindu community experienced under British Christian domination, however, was an ominously innovative form of cultural genocide. What they experienced was not an attempt at the physical annihilation of their culture, but a deceivingly subtler program of intellectual and spiritual annihilation. It is easy for a people to understand the urgent threat posed by an enemy that seeks to literally kill them. It is much harder, though, to understand the threat of an enemy who, while remaining just as deadly, claims to seek only to serve a subjugated people's best interests.

During this short span of time in the 19th century, the ancient grandeur and beauty of a classical Hinduism that had stood the test of thousands of years came under direct ideological attack. What makes this period in Hindu history most especially tragic is that the main apparatus that the British used in their attempts to destroy traditional Hinduism were the British educated, spiritually co-opted sons and daughters of Hinduism itself. Seeing traditional Hinduism through the eyes of their British masters, <b>a pandemic wave of 19th century Anglicized Hindu intellectuals saw it as their solemn duty to 'westernize' and 'modernize' traditional Hinduism to make it more palatable to their new European overlords. One of the phenomena that occurred during this historic period was the fabrication of a new movement known as 'neo-Hinduism'. Neo-Hinduism was an artificial religious construct used as a paradigmatic juxtaposition to the legitimate traditional Hinduism that had been the religion and culture of the people for thousands of years.</b> Neo-Hinduism was used as an effective weapon to replace authentic Hinduism with a British invented version designed to make a subjugated people easier to manage and control.

The Christian and British inspired neo-Hinduism movement attempted to execute several overlapping goals, and did so with great success:

a) The subtle Christianization of Hindu theology, which included concerted attacks on iconic imagery (archana, or murti), panentheism, and continued belief in the beloved gods and goddesses of traditional Hinduism.
b) The imposition of the Western scientific method, rationalism and skepticism on the study of Hinduism in order to show Hinduism's supposedly inferior grasp of reality.
c) Ongoing attacks against the ancient Hindu science of ritual in the name of simplification and democratization of worship.
d) The importation of Radical Universalism from liberal, Unitarian/ Universalist Christianity as a device designed to severely water down traditional Hindu philosophy.

The dignity, strength and beauty of traditional Hinduism was recognized as the foremost threat to Christian European rule in India. The invention of neo-Hinduism was the response. Had this colonialist program been carried out with a British face, it would not have met with as much success as it did. Therefore, an Indian face was used to impose neo-Hinduism upon the Hindu people. The resultant effects of the activities of Indian neo-Hindus were ruinous for traditional Hinduism.

The primary dilemma with Hinduism as we find it today, in a nutshell, is precisely this problem of a) not recognizing that there are really two distinct and conflicting Hinduisms today, Neo-Hindu and Traditionalist Hindu; and 2) with Traditionalists being the guardians of authentic Dharma philosophically and attitudinally, but not yet coming to full grips with the modern world...i.e., not yet having found a way of negotiating authentic Hindu Dharma with an ability to interface with modernity and communicate this unadulterated Hindu Dharma in a way that the modern mind can most appreciate it. Hinduism will continue to be a religion mired in confusion about its own true meaning and value until traditionalist Hindus can assertively, professionally and intelligently communicate the reality of genuine Hinduism to the world. Until it learns how to do this, neo-Hinduism will continue its destructive campaign.

The non-Hindu Origins of Radical Universalism

Radical Universalism is neither traditional nor classical in its origin. The origins of the distinctly non-Hindu idea of Radical Universalism, and the direct paralyzing impact it has had on modern Hindu philosophy, can only be traced back to the early 19th century. It is an idea not older than two centuries, yet the results of which have been devastating for both the progress of serious Hindu philosophical development since the 19th century, as well as in its practical effect of severely undermining Hindu self-esteem. Its intellectual roots are not even to be found in Hinduism itself, but rather are clearly traced back to Christian missionary attempts to alter the genuine teachings of authentic Hinduism. Radical Universalism was the vogue among 19th century British educated Indians, most of who had little authentic information about their own Hindu intellectual and spiritual heritage. These westernized Indians were often overly eager to gain acceptance and respectability for Indian culture from a Christian European audience who saw in Hinduism nothing more than the childish prattle of a brutish colonized people. Many exaggerated stereotypes about Hinduism had been unsettling impressionable European minds for a century previous to their era. <b>Rather than attempting to refute these many stereotypes about Hinduism by presenting Hinduism in its authentic and pristine form, however, many of these 19th century Christianized Indians felt it was necessary to instead gut Hinduism of anything that might seem offensively exotic to the European mind.</b> Radical Universalism seemed to be the perfect base-notion upon which to artificially construct a 'new' Hinduism that would give the Anglicized 19th century Indian intelligentsia the acceptability they so yearned to be granted by their British masters.

<b>We encounter one of the first instances of the Radical Universalist infiltration of Hinduism in the syncretistic teachings of Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833), the founder of the infamous Brahmo Samaj.</b> A highly controversial figure during his life, Roy was a Bengali pseudo-intellectual who was heavily influenced by the teachings of the Unitarian Church, a heterodox denomination of Christianity. In addition to studying Christianity, Islam and Sanskrit, he studied Hebrew and Greek with the dream of translating the Bible into Bengali. A self-described Hindu 'reformer', he viewed Hinduism through a warped colonial Christian lens. The Christian missionaries had told Roy that traditional Hinduism was a barbaric religion that had led to oppression, superstition and ignorance of the Indian people. He believed them. More, Roy saw Biblical teachings, specifically, as holding the cherished key to altering traditional Hindu teachings to make it more acceptable to India's colonial masters. In his missionary zeal to Christianize Hinduism, this Hindu 'reformer' even wrote an anti-Hindu tract known as The Precepts of Jesus: The Guide to Peace and Happiness. It was directly from these Christian missionaries that Roy derived the bulk of his ideas, including the anti-Hindu idea of the radical equality of all religions.

In addition to acquiring Radical Universalism from the Christian missionaries, Roy also felt it necessary to Christianize Hinduism by adopting many Biblical theological beliefs into his new neo-Hindu 'reform' movement. Some of these other non-intrinsic adaptations included a rejection of Hindu panentheism, to be substituted with a more Biblical notion of anthropomorphic monotheism; a rejection of all iconic worship ('graven images' as the crypto-Christians of the Brahmo Samaj phrased it); and a repudiation of the doctrine of avataras, or the divine descent of God. <b>Roy's immediate successors, Debendranath Tagore and Keshub Chandra Sen, attempted to incorporate even more Christian ideals into this new invention of neo-Hinduism.</b> Sen even went so far as concocting a Brahmo Samaj text that contained passages from a variety of differing religious traditions, including Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist. In his later years, Sen portrayed himself as a divinized prophet of the 'New Dispensation', which he felt replaced the Old and New Testaments, in addition to traditional Hinduism. With Sen's continued descent into anti-Hindu apostasy and megalomania, the movement rapidly declined in importance and influence. The Brahmo Samaj is today extinct as an organization, but the global Hindu community is still feeling the damaging effects of its pernicious influence even at present.

<b>The next two neo-Hindu Radical Universalists that we witness in the history of 19th century Hinduism are Ramakrishna (1836-1886) and Vivekananda (1863-1902). </b>Though Vivekananda was a disciple (shishya) of Ramakrishna, the two led very different lives. Ramakrishna was born into a Hindu family in Dakshineshwar. In his adult life, he was a Hindu temple priest and a fervently demonstrative devotee of the Divine Mother. His primary object of worship was the goddess Kali, whom he worshipped with intense devotion all of his life. <b>Despite his Hindu roots, however, many of Ramakrishna's ideas and practices were derived, not from the ancient wisdom of classical Hinduism, but from the non-Vedic religious outlooks of Islam and liberal Christianity.</b> Though he saw himself as being primarily Hindu, Ramakrishna also resorted to worshipping in mosques and churches, and believed that all religions aimed at the same supreme destination. <b>He experimented with Muslim, Christian and a wide variety of Hindu practices, blending, mixing and matching practices and beliefs as they appealed to him at any given moment. In 1875, Ramakrishna met Keshub Chandra Sen, the then leader of the neo-Hindu Brahmo Samaj, and formed a close working relationship with him. Sen introduced Ramakrishna to the close-knit community of neo-Hindu activists who lived in Calcutta, and would in turn often bring these activists to Ramakrishna's satsanghas.

Throughout his remarkable life, Ramakrishna remained illiterate, and wholly unfamiliar with both classical Hindu literature and philosophy, and the authentic teachings of the great acharyas who served as the guardians of those sacred teachings. Despite the severely obvious challenges that he experienced in understanding Hindu theology, playing upon the en vogue sentiment of religious universalism of his day, Ramakrishna ended up being one of the most widely popular of neo-Hindu Radical Universalists.</b> The fame of Ramakrishna was to be soon eclipsed, however, by that of his most famous disciple.

Swami Vivekananda was arguably Ramakrishna's most capable disciple. An eloquent and charismatic speaker, Vivekananda will be forever honored by the Hindu community for his brilliant defense of Hinduism at the Parliament of World Religions in 1893. Likewise, Vivekananda contributed greatly to the revival of interest in the study of Hindu scriptures and philosophy in turn-of-the-century India. The positive contributions of Vivekananda toward Hinduism are numerous and great indeed. Notwithstanding his remarkable undertakings, however, Vivekananda found himself in a similarly difficult position as other neo-Hindu leaders of his day were. How to make sense of the ancient ways of Hinduism, and hopefully preserve Hinduism, in the face of the overwhelming onslaught of modernity? <b>Despite some positive contributions by Vivekananda and other neo-Hindus in attempting to formulate a Hindu response to the challenge of modernity, that response was often made at the expense of authentic Hindu teachings. Vivekananda, along with the other leaders of the neo-Hindu movement, felt it was necessary to both water down the authentic Hinduism of their ancestors, and to adopt such foreign ideas as Radical Universalism</b>, with the hope of gaining the approval of the European masters they found ruling over them.

Vivekananda differed quite significantly from his famous guru in many ways, including in his philosophical outlook, personal style and organizational ambitions. While Ramakrishna led a contemplative life of relative isolation from the larger world, Vivekananda was to become a celebrated figure on the world religion stage. <b>Vivekananda frequently took a somewhat dismissive attitude to traditional Hinduism as it was practiced in his day, arguing (quite incorrectly) that Hinduism was too often irrational, overly mythologically oriented, and too divorced from the more practical need for social welfare work. He was not very interested in Ramakrishna's earlier emphasis on mystical devotion and ecstatic worship. Rather, Vivekananda laid stress on the centrality of his own idiosyncratic and universalistic approach to Vedanta, what later came to be known as 'neo-Vedanta'. Vivekananda differed slightly with Ramakrishna's version of Radical Universalism by attempting to superimpose a distinctly neo-Vedantic outlook to the idea of the unity of all religions. Vivekananda advocated a sort of hierarchical Radical Universalism that espoused the equality of all religions, while simultaneously claiming that all religions are really evolving from inferior notions of religiosity to a pinnacle mode.</b> That pinnacle of all religious thought and practice was, for Vivekananda, of course Hinduism. Though Vivekananda contributed a great deal toward helping European and American non-Hindus to understand the greatness of Hinduism, the Radical Universalist and neo-Hindu inaccuracies that he fostered have also done a great deal of harm as well.

<b>In order to fully experience Hinduism in its most spiritually evocative and philosophically compelling form, we must learn to recognize, and reject, the concocted influences of neo-Hinduism that have permeated the whole of Hindu thought today.</b> It is time to rid ourselves of the liberal Christian inspired 'reformism' that so deeply prejudiced such individuals as Ram Mohan Roy over a century ago. We must free ourselves from the anti-Hindu dogma of Radical Universalism that has so weakened Hinduism, and re-embrace an authentically classical form of Hinduism that is rooted in the actual scriptures of Hinduism, that has been preserved for thousands of years by the various disciplic successions of legitimate acharyas, and that has stood the test of time. We must celebrate traditional Hinduism. The neo-Hindu importation of Radical Universalism may resonate with many on a purely emotional level, but it remains patently anti-Hindu in its origins, an indefensible proposition philosophically, and a highly destructive doctrine to the further development of Hinduism.

Logical Fallacies of Radical Universalism

click the link to read the rest of the article -- too long to post here.
Here is an <b>excellent</b> PDF from the Himalayan Acadamy.
<b>Ten Questions people ask About Hinduism …and ten terrific answers!</b>

It is a must read for every 2nd generation India-detached Hindu, and a very succinct yet profound explanation of the faith.

I have printed and distributed copies of the above in my local temple, where it was <i>very</i> well recieved, especially by younger kids.

I humbly suggest doing the same, it is well worth the efforts
Harshavardhan: That link was great. Thanks. Had forwarded to couple friends around local temple and was very well received.

The Lotus Flower - Significance as symbol explained

In Hindu/Buddhist philosophical literature, the lotus flower is a symbol with great significance.
For example, in Sloka 10, Chapter 5 of the Bhagavad Gita it is said:

"One who leads his life dedicating all his actions to Brahman, abandoning attachments,
is freed from bondage just as a lotus leaf remains unaffected by the water.

Alan Watts, in his Essay "Seven Symbols of Life" explains the symbolic meaning of the Lotus flower thus:

The Lotus figures in the art of every great civilization of Asia, and in the course of thousands of years has gathered to itself associations which, to the Western mind, are bound up with all that seems exotic in the life of the East. For, the lotus is a mystery—a perfected glory appearing out of the unknown, a flower in whose circular spread of petals has been seen a symbol of the Wheel of Life and the rays of the sun. Yet, while there is mystery in the perfection of its form, the greatest mystery is that such a form should appear out of the slime—the formless primeval morass where, in the earliest ages, stirred the first living creatures—the home of blind worms and slithering reptiles, feeding upon one another and begetting their kind in innumerable masses.

This underworld of the morass has been sufficiently described in Kesserling’s masterpiece the South American Meditations, and there is no need to describe it further. But what must never be forgotten is that this underworld still exists in the soul of man; that while his spirit, like the Lotus struggles towards the light, so beneath him, and surrounding and nourishing his roots, is the primeval slime. And further, below this slime is the world of minerals, the rock and ores descending deeper and deeper into the earth right down to that flaming darkness which men have imagined as Hell - From all this the flower gathers its nourishment while from above the sun and the rain bring to it the gifts of Heaven. Both are essential to the life of the flower.

It might seem to the eyes of man that the lotus is no more than a flower, that this resplendent creation exists of itself floating detached and spotless above the water. But this is illusion. For just as the sage may appear spotless and detached from the world, he is like the lotus in that he has roots in the primaeval slime—and knows it. Foolishly it is thought that the highest achievement of the human spirit is a heavenly purity detached from earth—a rootless flower suspended in the air and nourished wholly from above. Yet in the symbol of the lotus we see that there is no conflict between heaven and earth; above, the flower develops into the fullness of its glory, expanding joyfully, opening its petals in welcome to sun and rain, while below, its root. stretch out into the morass, welcoming darkness and slime as the petals welcome light and air. For the life of the lotus is not in the flower alone; if it were, the roots would shrivel and die and the flower too would sink back into the mud. Nor is its life in the roots alone, for if this were so the flower would never raise its head above the water.

The realization of the truth contained in this symbol is the central problem of human life—the equal acceptance of both earth and heaven. Yet, remember it is the roots which accept the slime—not the flower, and the flower which opens itself to the sun—not the roots. The reverse of this would indeed be abomination and evil. But nothing can be evil so long as it is in its right place, for the conflict between good and evil is not a conflict between heaven and earth, but between a right and a wrong orientation of man between the two. For evil is when the flower turns and plunges into the slime, twisting up its roots to gesticulate meaninglessly in the light of day. Or again, evil is to withdraw from either the root or the flower, to try to deny either of the two by refusing it its right to reach out into its appropriate world. Thus the particular problem of modern man of the West is to recognize his roots.

For hundreds of years, his peculiar interpretation of the teaching of the Christ, his cult of consciousness, his moralism, his belief in progress towards the hygienic, the individuated and the independent has made him forget his roots in the primeval slime. But he must remember that the roots are not to be recognized once more by searching them out with the flower; to attempt this would be to lose all that he has gained by his development, one-sided though it be. It is this folly which we see at work in the West to-day, in the growing obsession with the irrational force of sex, of the herd, of blood and violence. Yet these forces are, in themselves, as pure as any of the virtues, and as full of life-giving nourishment as Reason and the cool thought of great philosophy. For this obsession is not recognition. It is feeding the mouth with the contents of the bowels, or, conversely, filling the bowels with undigested food.

What must be done, therefore, if man is to attain a right orientation between heaven and earth, and a full development of both root and flower? How can he fulfill the Eastern precept, “Grow as the flower grows, at peace”? How can he give full recognition to the slime, and at the same time rise upwards to the sun?

In the darkness below the surface of the water lies what modern psychology has termed the Unconscious. A little way down it remains individuated, but the further it descends, the more individuals are lost in the mass. Thus in the slime is the world of reptiles, an ever coiling and uncoiling world of flux, where the individual is subordinated to the one aim of reproducing the species—a world of extreme fertility and ruthless destruction—symbolized by the circle snake which swallows its own tail. In the depths of the slime below the reptiles are even more primitive and un-individuated forms of life—plasmic formations wherein even the distinction between the sexes has not developed, formations which reproduce their kind simply by dividing into two. And further down, beneath the bed of decaying vegetable and animal matter (the death from which life arises again and again), is the formless substratum of the mineral world.

These depths have their counterpart in the soul of man, for his Unconscious sinks beyond the personal and the chain of his past lives and the lives of his forefathers, to the race, to the animal, vegetable and mineral worlds. Here lies hidden the memory of the whole Universe, and in these unconscious depths every man has his roots. From them he derives his life just as much as from the conscious world above the water. And by accepting them, he transmutes the life of the slime into the glory of the flower. Therefore man must learn to recognize his foundation, to accept the primeval slime as part of his nature—nay more, to affirm and welcome it with his roots, stretching them down deeper and deeper into the earth.

For as men we cannot deny that we came into the world with blood and pain, that the powerful reproductive urge symbolized by the reptile stirs within us, that we have bowels as well as brains, that our life depends alike on growth and decay, and that what we have been accustomed to regard as dirt, violence and pain is an essential part of our nature. This is the meaning of the Resurrection, that life comes forth out of death and decay, just as the fruit must rot for the seed to grow into the tree.

Therefore nothing is to be gained by trying to escape from the primeval slime; without it we should die, while in truth it is no evil, Indeed, the humility of the sage is his capacity to accept the lowliest of things, to find goodness in slime. Yet it is strange that this should have been perverted into the false humility of the ascetic who rejoices in the dirt on the outside of his body, for this again is obsession, it is making the flower descend to the root.

Some will ask if this is not a ghastly life where the most gorgeous of flowers depends on slime, where growth can only be had at the expense of decay, where great achievements of the human spirit have their roots in the darkness and “depraved” irrationality of the Unconscious. Indeed, there are those who are so revolted by this life that they deny both flower and root, growth and decay, light and darkness, conscious and unconscious—hating both.

But their attitude is false, for they do not really hate both; they hate the dark side and would like to have the light, could it be had without darkness. When they speak of the vanity of life we must remind ourselves of the story of the sour grapes; they would not call it vain if it could be had without death. Yet nothing is to be achieved by revulsion and denial, not only because the attitude is fundamentally false, but because the denial of a thing does not make one free of it. Paradoxically, hatred binds one to the thing one hates, for if anything has enough power over a man to make him hate it, to that extent he is bound and conditioned by it. But while hatred is extracted, love is given. Therefore, freedom comes not through hatred and denial, but through love and affirmation. “Love” is not meant in the sense of “like” as opposed to dislike, for one may love without liking; the two are on different planes. To love both the root and the flower, earth and heaven, slime and air, death and life is not merely to like decay because it makes possible growth; it is to bring the two together into an inseparable unity and to become one with it by a complete acceptance until, beholding it, man can make to himself that tremendous affirmation: Tat tvam asi —That art thou!

The only complete surviving oral tradition is that of the 4th veda is the shaunakIya(AV-S) recitation. Even this is dwindling now. The paippalAda recitation (AV-P) is not preserved with svaras. An ekashruti recitation is preserved amongst the Orissan atharvavedis, and a few ritually critical mantras AV-P mantras with svaras, especially in the context of the tantric rituals of kubjikA upaniShad (relating to atharvaNa bhadrakAli and bagalamukhI) are known to some of the surviving atharvavedis (but largely kept secret). S.S. Pandit and Satavalekar have produced reasonable printed texts of the AV-S. Satavalekar's edition depended heavily on Pandit Ramachandra Shastri Ratate of Varanasi, who knew the whole saMhita pATha orally. An examination of his son's Atharvan recitation illustrates that his had a high fidelity of svaras. Pandit used multiple reciters of AV-S. Among them were Bapuji Jivanram from Gujarata, who a good recitational musicality and knew much of the saMhita orally and also pada pATha and krama pATha of the first 4 kANDas. The Maharastri AV scholar Keshava Bhatta from Mahuli near Thane knew whole saMhitA and pada recitation except the funerary hymns and also krama of kANDas 1-4. Venkan Bhatta another of Pandit's sources was the greatest Maharashtrian reciter of the AV-S who knew whole saMhitA, pada and a considerable part of the krama and jaTA pAThas. The vikR^iti pAThas of the AV-S saMhita are now largely extinct with the exception of few ritually critical recitations that are known by a small number of reciters.

In the Vaidik Samshodhana Mandal (Pune) we have seen a manuscript of an archaic mantralakShaNaM on how the atharva vedic jaTa and krama recitations were constructed. The basic rules are discussed: padas:
a, b, c -(krama)-> ab/bc/b iti b
a,b,c -(jaTA)->abbaab / bccbbc / b iti b

Further examples are discussed of the actual transformations in action.

jaTa and krama manuscripts belonging to the Gujarati Pancholi Brahmanas survive, but none of them are complete and nor is an extensive vikR^iti tradition known from extant Pancholis. The known jaTA manuscripts do not correspond to the expected rules of vedic accentuation. However, they are systematic throughout in their differences from the expected rules and from each other. This suggests that there might be many unknown issues with the recitational aspects of the AV-S vikR^iti which have been lost.

However, the krama pATha of the 2oth kANDa of S-AV closely resembles the R^igveda krama pATha. The RV krama pATha has not been printed, but I have seen a complete recitation of it by the Vedavikritilekhana Mandal (with fragment Audio recordings) in Pune by a Maharastri R^igvedic savant, Bhalachandrashastri.
The vratya stoma is described in the first 4 sections of the 17th chapter of the pa~nchaviMsha brAhmaNa. The stoma has been described as a means of admitting non-Aryans to the Aryan fold but this is not clear from the vedic text describing the rite. A summary of the brAhmaNa discourse is given below:
The vrAtya stoma's frame tale goes thus. The devas went to svargo lokaH. The gaNas of the dreaded The god were left behind leading the life of vrAtyas. They reached the spot where the devas had ascended to svarga but they neither found the stoma nor the Chandas by means of which they may join them. Then the devas told the maruts deliver the attendents of rudra the needful so that they may reach us. To them the maruts delivered that stoma with the 16 mantra chant which is the cryptic anuShTubh.

Those who lead the life of a vrAtya are verily destitute or left behind because they neither practise the vedic study nor farming nor trade. It is by the stoma of the maruts that they prosper. For the rite he deploys the chant " adha hi indra girvaNaH: For o indra who delights in the chants`(RV8.7-9)" which are in the kakubh Chandas. But the kakubh is an unequal Chandas for the sAmans. So he shall perform the shifting transformation on unequal padas of the kakubh to get the equalized verses for the song to the maruts known as the dyautAna sAman. When the gR^ihasta chants the nidhana of this song it must end in the word "indra" musically uttered. The vrAtyas would be excluded from the prosperity if they were to use this nidhana. Hence they must replace indra in the nidhana of the song with the anirukta nidhana which goes thus with the following mystic stobha: au^2 3 ho^1 2345 ; i.e. falling from the highest pitch to the second last svara of the regular saman scale.

The sacrificial oblations to the maruts may be made with the series of chants with 4 stomas with 16 mantras. The structure of the chants in the rite with respect to the the number of mantras they contain is thus: 9, 15, 15, 15, 16 : 16, 17, 17, 17, 16 : 16, 21

This rite is supposed to expitiate those who have eaten abhojya food as though the brAhmaNa's food, those who speak in corrupted sanskrit, who have perform unjust acts, who despite being vrAtyas speak in Chandas.

Thus, while there is an element of prAyshchitta in the prathama vrAtya stoma does not seem to be for non-Aryans.

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